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East Columbia 50+ Senior Center could receive $6.5 million toward renovations

The East Columbia 50+ Senior Center will receive $1 million in state funding and could see $5.5 million in county funding to go toward renovations, Howard County Executive Calvin Ball announced Wednesday.

Ball said he would include the $5.5 million allocation in his proposed fiscal 2022 capital budget, which he is set to unveil Thursday. The budget requires County Council approval.

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“The new East Columbia 50+ Center will be a vital infrastructure investment for older residents of East Columbia, especially considering how hard our seniors have been impacted by the coronavirus pandemic,” council member Christiana Rigby, who represents the district in which the center is located, said in a statement.

For fiscal 2021, Ball’s proposed budget included $16.2 million for the design and construction of the expansion of the East Columbia center. At the time it was expected to be complete in fiscal 2021, which ends June 30.

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After Ball’s proposed budget went through deliberation in the County Council last year, a majority of the council approved $23.4 million in budget cuts, citing concerns about the coronavirus pandemic. The East Columbia 50+ Senior Center budget was reduced by $4.5 million as part of those cuts.

In the final approved fiscal 2021 budget, the county said this decision led to delays in scheduled projects included the East Columbia Center.

In the master plan for the Office on Aging and Independence, it was noted the neighborhood where the center is located includes a population of individuals in which 86% are age 60 or older. Forty percent of Howard’s total older adult population resides in East Columbia, according to the report.

The planned expansion will take the center from 3,800 square feet to 29,600 square feet. It will include a commercial kitchen, fitness equipment room and exercise studio, large community meeting space, technology hub and a social day program for at-risk adults in the area, among other features. The building will also have a generator so it can be used by the community during emergencies.

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The county said construction of the center could begin as early as August of this year if the County Council approves the funding. The projected opening date is spring 2023.

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